"A Fire Upon the Deep" Group Discussion
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The zones of thought reality of Vinge's universe is also mind-bending (as I'm sure its meant to be ... ). It will be intriguing to see how it all works out.
Overall the premise seems very ambitious, introducing several major speculative concepts.
It's getting harder to pick up and easier to put down.
Is this part of a series?
and having looked it up, it is a prequel.
rereading my 1992 copy of FUtD makes me appreciate the difference in physical quality between trade and mass market paperbacks!~ My Vinge books are all mass market and in a few more years i suspect i'd start to have an asthmatic attack trying to read my copy.
It does slow down noticeably in the middle as Gene observed. Now ~ @ page 400
I didn't care for the Ravna/Pham side of the story as much as for the Tines, not nearly.
So the Blight is like some kind of... software virus? At least, Vinge seems to have been inspired by teh internets (fairly young at the time, at least to the general public), the whole electronic information-managing aspect, gigantic databases, perhaps the idea of emergent artificial intelligence from all the bits, and of course the idea of genetic material as software program--a sadly deficient analogy, as we know today.
To me the Tines make this story. Good read.
As I mentioned in another thread, I had a breakthru in how "Proper Literature" differs from genre while reading this book. It has to do with the interior lives of the characters. The only character that came within shouting distance of an interior life was Steel and that purely unintentional.
I enjoyed it in spurts, would recommend it to someone interested in SF, as genre fiction would give it 4 stars, but overall just 3.5 because of the lack of interiority of the characters.
I KNOW it's required for different species to communicate w/ a lingua franca of sorts; but i am always surprised at how easy it seems to be - the universe as one big mall. That's what made the Tines and Jefri and Johanna learning to communicate w/ each other one of the best done bits throughout the book. I liked the plotting and counterplotting w/in the Tines culture as they cope w/ the possibilities inherent in near instant techno-upgrades.
I think Gene's aha moment about the nature of interiority of characters' lives and action and interaction is a v. good one. He thought it obvious, but i hadn't really thought of the differences between "genre" and "literary" works in that way. As w/ all dichotomies there are going to be exceptions, but as a general rule it seems awfully sensible - or at least a very good feature to keep in mind while reading anything.
"GodShatter" seems a pretty cheesy dues ex machina device - although that's exactly what it is portrayed as. But a damn easy way to save a world in the nick of time.
I'd have to open the book back up - i'll do that this evening - but there were whole sections in the 3rd quarter of the book, esp. that could have been excised.
All the same - i'd still recommend the book, esp. to high school kids wanting to try something SF on a big scale. I know our son read it in jr high and liked it a lot. And i didn't mind rereading it again. I didn't have the sense of revulsion that i had for force my way thru w/ Gene Wolfe's book, for sure! And, unlike the last book, there's no question that FUtDeep flows in a major SF channel.
My ratings would be identical to Gene's - but as i'd rate it as genre, i'll give it 4 LT stars. (i'll have to see if i've already rated it earlier)
Altho I'm enjoying it and find many of the concepts interesting, it's still an easy book to put down, so I'm not sure how I'll react when the book slows down as others have indicated.
the Tines and Jefri and Johanna learning to communicate w/ each other one of the best done bits throughout the book.
Oh, absolutely! I just loved the episode of Woodcarver and others fiddling with Johanna's pink laptop and getting to the kiddie language program. Everything in the Tines world delighted me--no problem with battles either. The tension between Flenser's and Thyratect's natures in the Fragment, the scary Lord Steel who has to pretend he's a good guy to Amdi and Jefri, the curious Woodcarver and her 600-year old mind/self--the idea that a self is formed from composite memories of past generations--all this was wonderful.
I /liked/ the book well enough while I was reading it, but I could never seem to make myself care to open it up again while I wasn't, so it only got read on lunch breaks.
I think earlier statements are right on - The pace of the book was awkward, and none of the characters were especially compelling, but the general overall, the world and the ideas, were really interesting.
The concept of space as an un-uniform thing is really fascinating, and I feel like in better hands, this could have been the setting for a lot of fantastic stories. More, I loved the image of entire civilizations and races coming and going, the real /scale/ of things. The talk of eons as if they were decades. It put things in a different scope, and the contrast of some of the newsposts, the deaths on Sanjdra Kei, and Ravna's desperation to save a single human boy were really neat-- in theory. I do wish I'd been made to care about them a bit more.
I also appreciated the variety and the alieness of the aliens. I loved the discussion of strengths and weaknesses, the creativity of life so different from ours not just in appearance, but in outright function. I suspect that this is maybe what Vinge loved best, in restrospect, because he spends a lot of time having the Packs wish for hands and heads that think by themselves, etc.
My final complaint is that, frankly, if I'm going to spend a whole book reading about a STRUGGLE, then I want a WIN. I don't mind some death with my win, but wow, I'd like it to be at least a /little/ less depressing. There were several 'almost-- almost! oh no, it turned out badly!' moments in the book that drove me nuts. Scriber, Tyrathect, episodes with Pham, the Riders... to have the only real win be attributed to, as someone mentioned before, a deus ex machina, was frustrating. I kind of want to see my heroes being heroes, in a story that's about their battle.
I also thought the ending fit. What would an adventurer like Pham do trapped on tineworld?
Of the aliens, the ones that didn't work for me were the tusk leg people. I couldn't even visualize them, and didn't think Vinge described them well. I thought his evil butterfly people was an interesting touch, their nature so contrary to our perception of butterflies.
One question I was curious about was the lifespan of humans in the beyond. The plant people had been together for 200 years, and the tines "souls" or memories lasted at least a thousand years, unless they died by violence, but the only humans in the story were either children or adults who all seemed within child-bearing age.
Is physically-close collaboration really /that/ important? Especially when compared to a long view that humans could clearly never have?
* the early Internet-based model of interest groups and packets and "Relay" worked back in the early 1990s, but it's been left behind by the real world
* the Tines look like dogs... so why how could they build castles? in fact, why would they build castles? They'd build bunkers. And rooms with low ceilings. They'd also have trouble building boats. Their mouths are their manipulators - so how do they caulk the hulls then? Poison themselves in the process?
* there's still an impressive grandeur to the book's underlying concept. It doesn't have the gosh-wow it had when I read it 15 years ago, but it's still an important novel.
For the purposes of this book and relative life spans I suspect this is way overthinking a problem that does not really exist for the characters, but nevertheless, it's hard to talk about time without establishing the parameters.
Every "locality" would have its own, local time, locally measured (presumably) similarly to how we decide to measure the passage of time on Earth--for instance, currently, the second is defined as an x (sorry, don't remember the exact number) number of periods of radiation between two transitional states of a cesium isotope. Mayhap it wouldn't be cesium elsewhere, but let's say that's one ground idea.
And remember, time and space are relative--measuring them "absolutely" is impossible--you always need to define a reference system, and all the measurements proceed from these relative, local parameters.
If each local system has its own parameters for time measurement without some gauge we can't know how different they might be. A hundred years on the Tines world might be 5, 10, 20 or more years in Earth terms. In fact, I kind of get the impression earth is considered a third rate world deep in the slowness. Not the kind of place one would choose to use for precedent, particularly in the beyond.
I scanned the posts enough to have some misgivings - sounds like there are some complaints and disappointments. Still, I'll have a go at it. (and probably post on it after everyone has moved on) :)
I never understood the beginning with the Old One and the hogging of the data of the archive until the very end, which maybe is just me. I don't really read that much scifi, which is why I wanted to join this group! :)
I wanted a little more info on the Blight. I did not entirely understand how it worked. Plus I wasn't sure why Beyond equipment would not work in Slowness. This was important to the story.
Overall, I thought it was a great story, and I thought that the different ability levels of the different worlds made it all the more interesting.
Edited to put in left out word.
We think the speed of light and other physical phenomena impact matter the same throughout the universe. The zones play havoc with this notion.
It was a shame the plot devolved into a chase story. And a padded out one too. Liked the Tines- - thought the idea of the pack mind was very clever. The "Net of a Million Lies" didn't work for me at all. It was just a tarted-up USENET, and as a result read as though dominated by the rhetorical tactics of a particular group of people. For all the zillions of civilisations mentioned in passing in the book, their only strangeness was in appearance. Countermeasure was a bit of a fudge - nothing works in the Slow Zone except - oh, look! - Countermeasure. Have to admit, tho, what it did was pretty cool. The book suffered from problems of scale - everything was in millions and billions, but there was no real sense of this. Millions of civilisations, billions of years... And I never really got that sense of vast size and antiquity from the story.
I found the jumping around at the beginning a bit annoying. Too little about each character for me to care what happens to any of them yet.
I can tell this book is going to take me a while to finish. It's interesting enough that I don't want to completely set it aside, but there's a chance that it's the wrong book at the wrong time. (This is a reflection on me, not the book. The first time I picked up "The Left Hand of Darkness" I wasn't in the mood for that either.)
For instance, I see the map at the beginning, but even after many references to the various zones, I'm still totally confused as to what these zones actually are and how they came to be. I get that travel is faster or slower, and that intelligence seems to be affected. But I'm getting annoyed at the book. It's not written like it's supposed to be a mystery for the reader to solve, but that's what it feels like.
The other part I can't seem to picture is where it's taking place. Particularly where these "docks" are. First I thought they were space docks, then there's references to a sea, then the gal is on a beach with waves lapping at her feet so maybe it really is a sea, then there's talk of zero gravity so maybe its in space.
Yipes....usually I don't have any issues with setting scenes up in my head and developing a framework for the "rules" of the books reality.